Black News and News Makers in History: Mary Ann Shadd Cary

African American news from Pasadena - remembers this week in Black historyMary Ann Shadd Cary, educator and administrator, she became a role model for women in education and law.   She became the first African American woman in North America to publish and edit a weekly newspaper, The Provincial Freeman, the first anti-slavery newspaper devoted to displaced Americans living in Canada.  She was also the first woman to speak at a national ‘negro’ convention and the first African American woman to cast a vote in a national election.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary was born October 9, 1823 in Delaware to parents who were born free.  Her father played a major role in the Underground Railroad and was involved in William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator.

After receiving an education at a school run by the Quakers, she established a school for African American children in 1840 and taught in Pennsylvania and New York.  In 1850, with the Fugitive Slave Law passed, she and a brother moved to Canada.  She founded a racially integrated school with the support of the American Missionary Association.  As a result of this controversial school, she founded The Provincial Freeman newspaper in 1853 with Samuel Ringgold Ward.  The paper didn’t last long, but was restarted and continued to be published until 1859 with its focus on temperance, moral reform, civil rights and African American self help to stave off the racial discrimination.  It is known as one of the longest published African American newspapers until the Civil War.

She was of the belief that separate churches, schools, and communities would ultimately undermine freedom, so campaigned for equality and integration for the African American people.

After the death of her husband in 1860, she and her two children returned to the United States and was appointed an Army recruiting officer to enlist African American volunteers in to the Union Army.  After the Civil War, she taught in schools for African American children, first in Indiana, then in Washington, D.C.  .  While teaching at public schools in Washington, D.C., she returned to school, attending Howard University School of Law and graduated in 1883, becoming the second African American woman in the United States to earn a law degree.  She began writing for The National Era newspaper and The People’s Advocate newspaper.

She joined the National Woman’s Suffrage Association along with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, testifying before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives and became the first African American woman to cast a vote in a national election.

She died on June 5, 1893.  In 1976, her Washington, D.C., U Street Corridor residence was declared a National Historic Landmark.

As an educator, abolitionist, editor, attorney, and feminist, she dedicated her life to improving the quality of life for everyone black and white, male and female.

Compiled from various Internet sources.


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